Sales of DAB radio sets fell 9.1% in the second quarter of 2014 compared with the same period last year, according to Ofcom’s fifth annual Digital Radio Report.
The report, published today, also highlights the current state of availability of digital radio services, which can vary significantly by geographic area.
It says the BBC national DAB multiplex now covers 95% of households, while Digital One reaches 90%. Services on local digital multiplexes are estimated to reach 73% of homes. Digital television services which also carry digital radio services can be received by 99% of households, while digital radio via broadband internet is available to almost all, and taken up by 78%.
Ofcom says there are now 198 radio stations broadcasting on DAB in total. The highest availability is in London, where there are 60 services. This compares with areas such as Suffolk or Lincolnshire, where listeners receive 25 stations.
Almost half of UK adults (48.5%) claim to own a DAB digital radio set. Take-up of DAB sets varies across the UK with the highest ownership in Cambridgeshire/Peterborough (58.1%) and the lowest in Northern Ireland (26.7%).
Compared to Q2 2013, sales of DAB digital radio sets were down by 9.1%, with 1.7 million being sold in the year to Q2 2014. Total radio sales were down by 11.3% over the same period. DAB sales continue to represent around a third of all radio set sales. And more than half of new cars (54.8%) are now fitted with DAB as standard. This is an increase of 16.5 percentage points year on year in newly UK-registered cars that have a DAB digital radio as standard.
The Ofcom report also looks at audience listening in relation to digital radio. Over the full 12 months to June 2014, digital listening (including DAB, DTV and online) accounted for a 36.3% share of all radio listening hours in the UK. This is an increase of 2.4 percentage points on the previous 12-month period, and an increase of 10.4 percentage points since 2011. Two-thirds of digital radio listening is through a DAB set. In the 12 months to June 2014 the most widely-used method of listening to digital radio was via a DAB set (65.3% of digital listening), while 16.3% of digital listening was online or via apps. Digital TV accounted for 13.8%. BBC stations accounted for over half of digital listening (55.6%); of which simulcasts of analogue BBC radio services contributed the most.
But there are still 14% of adults in the UK who say they have not heard of digital radio. 86% had heard of it in Q2 2014. Awareness was highest among those in households in the AB socio-economic group (92%), males (91%) and adults aged 35-54 (91%).
74% of DAB set owners associate digital radio with having a clear and high quality sound. Seven in ten (70%) said that they had experienced a wider choice of stations available on digital radio.
Jane Ostler, Communications Director at Digital Radio UK told RadioToday: “The report shows encouraging progress on coverage, cars, sales of digital devices and station availability. Listeners can look forward to planned national and local coverage improvements by the broadcasters over the next couple of years, further progress on digital radio in cars and the planned new national commercial stations. With analogue listening at an all-time low, digital is the way forward for radio.”